UPDATE: A judge has sentenced Robert Hull Marko to life in prison plus another 84 years for the rape-murder of one woman and the sexual assault of a teenager.
Both crimes were committed within a week of each other in the same general area off Old Stage Road. Here’s a blog of the sentencing hearing:
Good afternoon court watchers,
This is John Ensslin, Legal Affairs reporter for The Gazette, coming to you live from Division 5, where in a few minutes a judge will sentence Robert Hull Marko.
Marko, a former Fort Carson soldier and Iraq War veteran, is facing a mandatory sentence of life without parole for the October 2008 rape-murder of Judilianna Lawrence.
While the outcome of the murder sentence is a given, the hearing will be an opportunity for Lawrence’s relatives to address the judge.
On Feb. 3, a nine-woman, three-man jury took about ten hours over two days to find Marko guilty of first-degree murder after deliberation plus two counts of sexual assault and two counts of attempted sexual assault.
Marko’s public defenders argued during the trial that the 23-year-old Iraq war veteran was legally insane at the time of the murders and that his mental illness dated back to when he was a child growing up in Michigan.
It was then, after years of neglect and abuse, that he developed an alternate personality known as “Rex 290” a lethal black raptor dinosaur, they said.
They argued that Marko would retreat into that persona whenever he was confronted with stressful situations. They contend that’s what happened on the day Lawrence was murdered.
But prosecutors countered that Marko’s actions following the murder showed he was not psychotic, but rather a cold calculated killer who gave various versions of what had happened before leading El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies to where they found Lawrence’s body.
Marko has just been brought into the packed courtroom.
First up is the mother of a teenage girl whom Marko pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting five days prior to the murder in the same general wooded area.
She describes how Marko, “altered how she acts in public…how she sleeps”
“In this one day, he was able to instill a whole new level of fear in her,” she continued.
“As a parent, it’s the hardest thing to watch what she has gone through.”
“In our opinion, this man is a predator,” she added.
She asked him to impose the maximum sentence on the sex assault charges.
John Lawrence, Judilianna’s daughter addresses the judge.
He noted the sentence for the murder charge is mandatory.
“You don’t have a choice,” Lawrence said. “Society demands it.”
“He (Marko) picked on women, young and small,” the father added.
“I wish him 100 years in a place where he’d never thought he’d be,” the father concluded. “Every single minute of it. I want him to do it all.”
Wes Marko, the defendant’s father addresses the court.
He questioned why the military and the community did not react sooner to a series of murders and attempted murders carried out by several soldiers shortly after they returned to Fort Carson after intense fighting in Iraq.
He asked why the Army sent his son into the war zone after questions were raised at the base about his mental health.
“They got their body,” the father said. “He was red-flagged and then they turned around and he was cleared to go.”
None of that justified what his son did, Wes Marko added. But he asked if more had been done earlier to deal with soldiers returning with mental health problems if lives could have been saved.
“I’m just at a loss as to why,” he said.
“There’s a lot of what ifs here. There’s a lot of other people to blame,” he added.
“I just don’t know why they waited so long,” he said.
Next, the judge offered Robert Marko a chance to speak. He declined.
Deputy District Attorney Deb Pearson makes her argument to the judge.
“There are no excuses.” Pearson says of Marko’s actions. “It’s not the Army. It’s not his childhood. He was the one who was making all the choices on Old Stage Road.”
“The people would ask for nothing less than the maximum” she adds.
Judge Schwartz calls the crimes Marko committed “horrendous”
There’s absolutely nothing to mitigate what Marko did, Schwartz said.
“I agree there is absolutely nothing to justify that these two crimes were committed within a week,” the judge said.
Schwartz imposed the maximum sentences on all counts with the sex assault sentence of 32 years to life to run consecutive to the life sentence for the murder.
Here’s the breakdown on the sentence:
First-degree murder: life without parole
Sexual assault (two counts): 10 years to life (consecutive)
Attempted sexual assault (two counts): 6 years to life (concurrent)
Sexual assault on a child (two counts, for the earlier incident): 32 years to life (consecutive)
I’ll end this blog here. Watch for the full story plus video later today at gazette.com